Recorded as Maher, Meagher, Meagar, and possibly others, this is an Irish surname primarily from County Tipperary. It derives from the medieval Gaelic O' Meachair, meaning the male descendant of the kindly and hospitable chief! Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, revered elders, or some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by O', or Mac denoting "son of". The great O' Meachair clan belonged to the barony of Ikerrin in County Tipperary, and their territory was situated near Roscrea, at the foot of the famous Devil's Bit Mountain. Unlike some Gaelic clans or septs, the O' Meachairs refused to be ousted from their territory by Norman invaders, and remained in possession side by side with the Norman de Buitleir family. Of the eight thousand or so people bearing the name in Ireland today, over fifty per cent come from County Tipperary. An early example of a a recording is that of Captain John Meagher. He served with the army of the exiled King James 11nd against William of Orange, but in 1690 he was captured and later hanged for treason. Other examples include that on December 23rd 1734, of Thomas Maher, baptised at St. Mary's Cathedral, Limerick, whilst in 1740, one Gilbert Maher was recorded in Tipperary. The coat of arms borne by this illustrious family has the blazon of a blue shield charged with two gold lions rampant combatant supporting a silver sword, the crest being a silver falcon, belled gold. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Edmund Meagher. This was dated November 13th 1656, when he married Ellan Hackett, in Dublin. This was during the "reign" of Oliver Cromwell, known as "The Great Protector", 1649 - 1658. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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